Dr. Tracy A Heath

People
Assistant Professor
Photograph of Tracy Heath

Research Interest:

Develops novel computational and statistical approaches for estimating evolutionary parameters in a phylogenetic context. I evaluate the properties and performance of phylogenetic methods using biological data sets and through the development of new simulation tools. Additionally, my collaborators and I apply phylogenetic techniques to empirical data sets to understand patterns of biodiversity, morphological evolution, and historical biogeography. My primary approach to developing phylogenetic tools is to apply new statistical models as priors using Bayesian inference methods. I am a developer for a software project called RevBayes.

RevBayes is a program for Bayesian inference of evolutionary parameters including (but not limited to) phylogeny, divergence times, rates of character evolution, population dynamics, rates of selection across a genome, and patterns of species diversification. The RevBayes
framework uses an interpreted, interactive programming language and relies on probabilistic graphical models. This flexible design allows any user to implement, apply, and test new models and statistical methods. Thus, this software package represents a new paradigm for Bayesian phylogenetic inference by providing novel tools for describing and visualizing evolutionary models and affording all users the opportunity to easily develop and implement new models. I am seeking PhD students with strong interests in phylogenetics and statistical inference.

Selected Publications:

  • Software: RevBayes v1.0. Hohna, S., B. Boussau, T.A. Heath, M.J. Landis, N. Lartillot, J.P. Huelsenbeck, and F. Ronquist. Bayesian phylogenetic inference using probabilistic graphical models and an interpreted language. (http://revbayes.github.io/about.html)
  • Software: DPPDiv - Heath, T.A. Bayesian estimation of species divergence times under a Dirichlet process prior. ( https://github.com/trayc7/FDPPDIV).
  • Heath, T.A., J.P. Huelsenbeck, and T. Stadler. "The fossilized birth-death process for coherent calibration of divergence-time estimates."
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(29):E2957-E2966, 2014.
  • Heath, T.A. and B.R. Moore. "Bayesian inference of species divergence times." In: Bayesian Phylogenetics: Methods, Algorithms, and Applications, Chen, M.-H., L. Kuo, P.O. Lewis (editors), Chapman & Hall/CRC, 2014.
  • Cook, J.A., S.V. Edwards, E.A. Lacey, R.P. Guralnick, P.S. Soltis, D.E. Soltis, C.K. Welch, K.C. Bell, K.E. Galbreath, C. Himes, J.M. Allen, T.A. Heath, A.C. Carnaval, K.L. Cooper, M. Liu, J. Hanken and S. Ickert-Bond. "Natural history collections as emerging resources for innovative education." Bio-Science, 64:725-734, 2014.
Area of Expertise: 
Phylogenetics
Education: 
B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2000
Ph.D., Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, University of Texas, 2008
Contact
251 Bessey Hall
Ames
Iowa
50011-